How will industrial distributors survive the generational shift in buying behavior? One answer is to build a digital customer journey that utilizes simple marketing tools and strategies that anyone can execute. The goal is to generate more engagements with your customer base which helps you minimize attrition, educate your customers, and grow your share of wallet.

Here's How to Build a Digital Customer Journey That Really Works

We (humans) love journeys and paths. From the stories we read and the movies we watch to the brands we most connect with, we are hard-wired for order, direction, and vision. As industrial entrepreneurs and marketing leaders, we work hard to create a vision and road-map for our employees, but have you done the same for your customers?

Have you thought about every step of a customer's journey with you? What happens after they cut that PO? Are you strategically leading them to utilize ALL your products and/or services? Chances are, like most industrial distributors, you're leaving a lot on the table. 

You Need a Home Base That Serves as a Stepping Stone in Your Customer Journey

Also known as a Landing Page. You should create one for each month and these will get updated once a year. This landing page will contain all the great information, resources, and promotional offers for your customers. 

Add Just a Dash of Fear

The first section to include on your landing page is fear -- fear of missing out (FOMO) or fear of failure. Both of these are strong motivating factors for industrial buyers, managers, and safety professionals. Just like salt in a recipe, we only need a pinch of fear. Too much, and we will freak everyone out and come across like a high-pressure used-car salesman. That is NOT the image we're going for.

 Just like salt in a recipe, we only need a pinch of fear. 

Adding a touch of fear can be as simple as a headline and some copy describing a common problem and negative outcome that effects customers like yours. For example, "Do you have a documented Lockout/Tagout program?"... "Are you tools organized and maintained"... "if not, it could cost you!"

FOMO can also be achieved by creating a promotional offer or freebie (but it has to be limited!). For a limited time, take 20% OFF these products. Or enter to win this month's drawing for the Yeti Cooler filled with safety gear. The idea is to create scarcity and urgency.

Lead with Educational Content That Inspires

The second section is educational and focused not on fear, but on painting the picture of what success looks like. You are the guide, and you know what your customer needs to be successful. What does it look like when all your employees have the right safety equipment and actually comply with the safety rules? What does it look like when your employees can spend less time fixing and finding tools and more time actually doing the work?

Providing tips and best practices to help them do their job right goes a long way toward providing value and earning trust. This goes for prospects, new customers, and old customers alike!

What does this look like? You guessed it -- an article or blog. Technically, the only difference between an article and a blog is that a blog allows comments and interaction. It doesn't matter which way you choose to publish educational content, it's just important that you do.

The internet only works when there is content for search engines to serve up to potential customers.

You need to create content based on what your customers find valuable, and you need to do it consistently. Even if it's just once a month so you can have something to share on your landing page. Create a summary with a great photo and post it on the landing page. You do not want to post the entire 1,000 word article here, the idea is to "tease' the article and link to your blog or news section on your website.

Finish with a Clear Call-to-Action Featuring Supplier Products

The third and final section on your landing page is a call to action. This is where you highlight your featured manufacturer partners of the month and by the way -- they pay for this space. This is where you focus on particular products and solutions related to the topic or product category of the month.

Many of your customers want to know what NEW products are out there, even if they are not ready to buy them today. Ask them to visit a product detail page on your website or contact a sales representative to request a quote. If you don't ask, you shall not receive!

Educated customers spend more. It's as simple as that.

I am a big proponent of featuring a select handful of suppliers in the call-to-action section and then using co-op dollars or additional credit to help pay for the cost of the landing page and monthly campaign. If you feature 3 suppliers, split the total project fees into thirds and ask each supplier to chip in for their fair share. If you feature 6, split it by six... you can also have 3 gold suppliers (who get more space), and 6 silver suppliers (who get less space).

You can really get creative -- you can even use one month to feature one supplier at a time. It's up to you. This is VALUABLE for your manufacturers, and they will be pumped that you are doing this. If they don't understand the value because they are living in the stone age, then pick another supplier who gets it!

Promote Your Page Each Month Across Multiple Channels


I like to send one email each week highlighting a different area of the landing page. The first week is a general overview. Then we talk about the offer or fear in the second week. The third week is all about the educational article, and the fourth week is highlighting the call-to-action.

If you want, you can feature your manufacturer brands in each email and include that on your bill when you ask for them to help pay for this.

I also like to use marketing automation to allow your customers to turn off the journey whenever they want. For example, not every customer is going to be interested in every campaign. You may run a campaign one month about facility safety, but the content is not particularly relevant to your contractor customers. If you have your customers segmented, you can avoid sending it to them or give them the ability to "pause" notifications until next month.

Social Media

We are are going to post every day or at least every other day, linking to our landing page and we are only going to focus on the educational aspect of our campaign. Try to keep the selling to a minimum.

Remember, if you do your job on the landing page and the article, visitors from social media will see the products you sell and can consider purchasing from you on their terms. No pressure.

Sales are a natural side effect of staying on top of mind with your customers.

This whole thing is about awareness and engagement. Sales are a natural side effect of staying on top of mind with your customers. Pro tip: consider creating a Facebook pixel re-targeting campaign that will serve up sponsored content to people who visit your website. I like to follow my customers home after work... in a non-creepy way! 

Print (Surprised?)

Print and digital? Is that allowed. Yes, yes it is. This is simple. Create clean flyers highlighting the monthly customer journey and stick them in your customers orders OR put a link on your invoices.

Of course, you can and should highlight your digital customer journey in your catalogs, flyers or brochures.

To make it easy, you should have one "master page" which links to all the other "child" pages in your campaign. That way your customers and prospects can go back and visit any one even after they are over. The offer may not longer be available, but the content is evergreen!

Tracking the ROI and Watching The Revenue Pile Up

Finally, how do we track the ROI on something like this? The magic happens when you integrate an all-in-on marketing tool which allows you to track all of the activities associated with a campaign with your ERP or order management software. This will show us which activities and pages influenced or directly led to a sale.

These campaigns can have an ROI of over 500% when executed correctly. This is not rocket science marketing, but it does take commitment, organization, and some creativity.

Need Help Executing This at Your Company?

If you want to learn more about how to execute this with your own team or if you need some help outsourcing this, contact me by scheduling a consultation.

Got questions? Post them in the comments below and I will be sure to answer!